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Upstate Forever awarded $3.9 million by USDA

Staff Report //May 7, 2020//

Upstate Forever awarded $3.9 million by USDA

Staff Report //May 7, 2020//

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service awarded $3.9 million to nonprofit conservation group Upstate Forever.

“It’s part of Upstate Forever’s mission to protect our region’s water, and some of the most influential lands for water quality are those used to grow our food,” Scott Park, the Glenn Hilliard Director of Land Conservation at Upstate Forever, said in a news release. “In 2018, Upstate Forever set a goal to protect 15,000 additional acres of critical land by the end of 2022. We’re excited to help out our landowners and our partners by offering this great incentive to protect more land forever.”

The funding, announced last week, will be used to aid efforts for conserving farms, ranches, agricultural neighborhoods, equestrian areas and watershed lands to protect water quality in the region, according to the release. Upstate Forever was chosen out of 48 applicants across 29 states for a portion of the $206 million in Regional Conservation Partnership Program funding and $300 million in funding from the program’s partners.

The USDA funding program, first authorized in the 2014 Farm Bill, offers $300 million annually and has invested $1 billion in conservation organizations across the nation since 2015 with an additional $2 billion coming from partners, according to the release.

“I’m excited to announce the first RCPP awards under the 2018 Farm Bill,” NRCS Chief Matthew Lohr said in the release. “Through collaboration and aligning our resources toward a common goal, we’re making an impact for natural resource conservation that could never have been realized on our own.”

For property to be considered for protection through Upstate Forever’s Land Trust, it will need to meet specific criteria for location, soil, water and habitat quality, according to the release. Focus areas include:

  • Southern Greenville agricultural neighborhoods
  • Saluda River Valley ranches and cropland in northern Pickens and Greenville counties
  • Southern Oconee and northwestern Anderson farm operations
  • Pastures and livestock operations in Cherokee and Union county pastures
  • Equestrian areas in northern Spartanburg County and Polk County, N.C.
  • Farms and pastures in Laurens County
  • River bottom agricultural options in Greenwood and Abbeville counties.